What's the Difference Between X-Outs and Practice Balls?

There are a couple types of discount golf balls that golfers sometimes run across, either online or in physical stores: X-outs and "practice" balls. In both cases, these are golf balls whose manufacturer has decided it can't market and sell them at regular price due to some kind of quality-control issue. But is there any difference between an X-out and a ball stamped "practice"?

X-out golf balls are called that because, in many cases, they literally have a row of X's stamped over the brand name and usually the model name, too. (Today, some companies choose to stamp "X-Out" onto the side of the ball instead.) "Practice balls" are called that because the word "Practice" (or sometimes just a "P" within a circle) is stamped on the ball's side but with the brand/model name unobscured.

And there is a difference between these two types of discount golf balls. If there wasn't, the ball makers wouldn't cover up their brand name on one type (X-outs) and leave the brand name readable on the other (practice). They also wouldn't sell one version for less than the other: X-outs cost less than balls stamped "Practice."

There are two key differences:

  • Golf balls stamped "Practice" are ones that, as TaylorMade explains on its website, "differ (from its regular balls) only due to a cosmetic blemish such as paint, ink or registration of stamping," and that "do not have any construction or performance deficiencies." X-out golf balls might just have cosmetic blemishes discovered during quality control — but with X-outs, there is the possibility that any given ball in the box might also have a minor defect in construction or physical properties.

  • The second difference is that "Practice" balls are known to be conforming under the Rules of Golf. Having that word "Practice" stamped on it is no different than having a school logo or the golfer's name stamped on it. You can definitely use a practice ball in competitions. X-outs, however, are not allowed in any competitition being played under a Local Rule that adopts the List of Conforming Golf Balls as a requirement.
In the heirarchy of golf balls, regular balls are on top; practice balls are a step below due solely to cosmetic issues; and x-outs are another notch down because of the possibility of minor physical problems with the ball.

It's the same order in the pricing of golf balls: practice balls cost less than regular balls, with x-outs being cheaper than practice balls.

Lennox, Doug. Now You Know Golf, "Why are X-out balls illegal under the Conforming Ball condition?" Dundurn Press, 2008
TaylorMadeGolf.com. TP5/TP5 Practice Balls, https://www.taylormadegolf.com/TP5%2FTP5x-Practice-Balls/DW-WZ962.html
Titleist.com. Team Titleist, "Dumb question," https://www.titleist.com/teamtitleist/team-titleist/f/golf-balls/9495/dumb-question

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